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Review: Shackleton and His Stowaway, at Park Theatre 90

16 January, 2020 — By Howard Loxton

Elliott Ross and Richard Ede in Shackleton and His Stowaway. Photo: Elena Molina

IN 1914, 18-year-old Welshman Perce Blackborow was in Buenos Aires and applied for a crew vacancy on Shackleton’s Endurance, sailing south on his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

Turned down because of his inexperience, he got friends to smuggle him aboard and after discovery was made a steward.

This is the inspiration behind Andy Dickinson’s play which tells the story of that disastrous expedition.

Kaajel Patel’s design for Simone Coxall’s imaginative production uses wooden pallets, crates and ropes to suggest on and below deck, and cabins. When the ship is trapped in ice, they become sledges, shelters and a lifeboat.

Enrique Muñoz Jimenez’s projected abstractions, Pablo Baz’s lighting and Dominic Brennan’s sound help conjure up Antarctic wastes and the fierce Southern Ocean.

Shackleton’s monologues appear to be entries from his journal (which we see him typing up with one finger, three strokes to the paragraph, all part of the stylisation).

In poetic phrases he tells us “Antarctica’s white wilderness runs through my blood.”

Dickinson exploits the pairing of these contrasting men who, despite their privations and frostbite amputations, often interact like a comedy duo.

Richard Ede’s polished performance as Shackleton shows some sign of humanity behind the stiff upper lip.

Elliott Ross’s delightfully cocky working-class stowaway may at first idolise his hero explorer but that doesn’t stop him from standing up to “the boss”.

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